Record number of aspiring barristers enrol on bar course

updated on 30 June 2020

A record number of aspiring lawyers enrolled on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in 2018, with most graduates unable to go on to secure pupillage, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) revealed.

In 2018-19, 1,753 students enrolled on the BPTC, according to a BSB report. This number is an increase of 134 on the 2017-18 enrolment figures and the largest number of enrolments since 2011 when the BPTC began.

Despite these record numbers, only 43% of UK/EU graduates who completed the course between 2014 and 2018 had secured and started pupillage by March 2019. The BCAT, which all students who apply for the BPTC must take, costs £150 and recent figures suggest that it does not filter out students who are unlikely to perform well as a practising barrister. There are no plans to revise the test, according to the regulator.

BSB data reveals that students from a ‘top 10 university’ are more likely to secure pupillage. More than 71% of first-class students from a top 10 university who were graded ‘very competent’ in the BPTC have now secured a pupillage. Meanwhile, the success rate for students with the same qualifications from a ‘next 40’ university were significantly lower at just 48%.

Following the global coronavirus pandemic, there have been disruptions to pupillage positions. This year 2,142 people had applied for 206 pupillages via the Bar Council’s portal system; however, 19 pupillages have since been withdrawn and an additional 16 have been deferred until later in 2020, with 171 pupillage offers remaining.

Training providers recently introduced new bar courses which charge lower fees than the BPTC, which used to cost up to £19,000 – students at The University of Law campus are now set to pay £13,000 and those at City Law School are due to pay £14,000.